Most boondockers limit their stay to no more than 14 days without moving their camp on BLM land. However, this is just a general guideline that boondockers and the general public have adopted. This is not the BLM’s national policy. The BLM does not have a single, national policy on maximum length of stay on its lands. Rather, each BLM field office or national monument is left to establish its own policies.
How Many Days Can You Camp on BLM Land?
That depends on where you camp.
BLM Public Lands
Public Lands are what the BLM refers to as lands it manages that have no other specific designation, purpose, or protections. These are the lands most boondockers think of when they refer to BLM camping. With respect to maximum length of stay, the BLM’s national rules only states the following…
§ 8365.1-2 Occupancy and use.
“On all public lands, no person shall:
(a) Camp longer than the period of time permitted by the authorized officer; or
(b) Leave personal property unattended longer than 10 days (12 months in Alaska), except as provided under § 8365.2-3(b) of this title, unless otherwise authorized.”
Generally, you can often camp longer than 14 days without incident on Public Lands. If the local BLM field office has set a policy of 14 days maximum, and you camp longer than that, the worst that will happen is a BLM ranger will knock on your RV door and give you 24-48 hours to pack up and leave. But yet, it’s rare that this happens because rangers spend most of their time focused on more serious offensives like illegal tree cutting, hunting, mining, and illegal off-road use. Policing campers who’ve exceeded their length of stay is the least of their troubles considering most Public Lands have plenty of room for other RVs.
BLM Developed Recreation Areas
The BLM defines these as sites and areas that contain structures or capital improvements primarily used by the public for recreation purposes. Such sites or areas may include features like delineated spaces for parking, camping or boat launching; sanitary facilities; potable water; grills or fire rings; tables; or controlled access. If you arrive at a BLM area where there is a pit toilet, fire rings, numbered camp sites, or even just a kiosk, chances are you’re at a “Developed Recreation Area”.
In this case, each BLM field office is required to established its own maximum length of stay for each specific developed recreation area. BLM Rule § 8365.2 requires each field office to post that maximum length of stay (if any) on a kiosk or information board at the primary entrances to the area.
Often times, that maximum length of stay is 14 days. However, we’ve seen it as high as 21 days and as low as 3 days in certain areas.
BLM Wilderness Areas
Wilderness Areas are specifically those areas that were created in response to the Wilderness Act of 1964. These are not the same as “Wildlife Management Areas”. A wilderness area will always have signs posted at primary entrances with a name followed by the words, “Wilderness”.
The BLM requires each field office to specify the maximum length of stay at a wilderness area. If no length of stay is posted, you will have to contact the field office to inquire. Wilderness Areas are patrolled more strictly than any other lands managed by the BLM.
Wilderness Areas do not permit vehicles, nor do they have any roads. Most, however, have a service road that takes you up to its borders. Sometimes you can camp along this service road, as long as you don’t block traffic and remain outside of wilderness boundaries. Otherwise, you will have to hike your camping equipment in.
You can read the full set of camping and recreation rules on “BLM Rules for Wilderness Areas“.
BLM Conservation Lands
Conservation Lands is what the BLM refers to as special areas designated by an Act of Congress or by Executive Order. National monuments like Grand Staircase Escalante in Utah and the Mojave Trails in California are examples. It also includes lands created under the National Trails System of 1968, as well as the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968.
Each of these areas is required to establish its own policies on maximum length of stay. Many of these areas have developed campgrounds, but also permit dispersed camping (boondocking). You will have to inquire at a visitor’s center to learn what specific rules they’ve established for dispersed camping.
More often than not, they’ll require you obtain a camping permit (usually free), where you specify in the permit how long you plan to stay. It’s still highly unlikely they’ll come by on your last day to see you out. Rather, they’ll let you police yourself. Often times, boondockers will specify one to two weeks in the permit, then stay longer.